The Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) "conclusions regarding the effectiveness of food safety recalls may be based on inaccurate or incomplete information," the report said.
The USDA inspector general's office examined one of the largest recalls in history: 27.4 million pounds of processed deli poultry from a Wampler Foods plant in Franconia, PA, in 2002.
FSIS declared the food company's recall effort complete in July 2003, but auditors found holes in the records on which the agency based its determination. The audit looked at 582 effectiveness check forms and found discrepancies in 389.
Auditors attributed the high error rate to a "careless approach" from FSIS in overseeing the recall.